Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS) - 08.16.17

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS) provides two independently controlled environmental chambers capable of conducting a wide variety of biological investigations using plants, microorganisms, or small arthropods. The temperatures, lighting conditions, and atmospheric compositions within these chambers are adjusted for different experiments.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Jose Camacho, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details


Facility Manager(s)
Jose Camacho

Facility Representative(s)
Mark G. Lindell, AmericaESC Team QNA, FL, United States

NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

ISS Expedition Duration
October 2008 - March 2010; May 2012 - March 2014; September 2014 - March 2015

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
STS-129, STS-130 and STS-131.


  • Onboard
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    Facility Description

    Facility Overview

    The Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS) is a single International Space Station (ISS) Stowage locker equivalent system with two independently controlled chambers. The ABRS is compatible with the ISS EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) rack. The ABRS was designed to conduct a wide range of space-based biological investigations involving the growth of plants and/or other small specimens.
    ABRS contains two independently programmable environmental research chambers (ERC) whose light regime (intensity and periodicity), temperature (18-30°C), and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are controlled to user specified set points. Each ERC provides a culture area of over 268 cm2 (13.3 x 20.2 cm). The removable ERC base provides up to 5 cm of depth with 19 cm of head-space available from the top of the base to the top of the chamber. Both ERCs contain three top-situated analog color cameras that provide coverage of the entire culture area. Power and data services are also available for experiment-unique equipment that can be mounted inside the chambers.
    Two independent Light Emitting Diode (LED) light banks, one for each ERC provides light specifically configured for plant growth. Each light bank is composed of 303 LEDs controlled via Pulse Width Modulation with a light intensity up to 500 µmoles m-2 s-1. A mixture of ultra-bright red, white, green and blue LEDs produce a spectrum with primary peaks at 470 and 660 nm and minor green and white light components.
    Camera images are sent to the ground daily through the EXPRESS rack. The Control Data Monitoring System (CDMS), within ABRS, provides the ability to alter environmental set points from the ground.
    An independent piece of Experiment Unique Equipment (EUE) called the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) Imaging System is currently housed within one of ABRS’ two ERCs. The GFP Imaging System (GIS) provides wavelength specific LED illumination and cameras for imaging organisms that have been modified to include GFP reporter genes.

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    Facility Operations

    • The Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS) is an autonomous facility operated primarily from the ground.
    • ABRS provides adjustable lighting for growth, CO2 and Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) (including Ethylene) scrubbing, imaging capabilities, and data downlinking.
    • The crew nominally interfaces with the ABRS via a laptop computer.
    • Nominal ABRS crew operations include periodic status checks, Internal Cooling Loop (ICL) water replenishment, atmosphere filter change-outs, and experiment-specific operations that can involve specimen removal for manipulations, harvest (including fixation in Kennedy Space Center Fixation Tubes (KFTs) and photography.

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    Decadal Survey Recommendations

    Information Pending

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    Results/More Information

    Information Pending

    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

      Levine HG, Cox DR, Reed DW, Mortenson TE, Shellack JL, Wells HW, Murdoch T, Regan MF, Albino SA, Cohen JN.  The Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS): A Single Middeck Payload for Conducting Biological Experimentation on the International Space Station. 47th Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, Orlando, FL; 2009

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

      Zabel P, Bamsey M, Schubert D, Tajmar M.  Review and analysis of over 40 years of space plant growth systems. Life Sciences in Space Research. 2016 August; 10: 1-16. DOI: 10.1016/j.lssr.2016.06.004.

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    Related Websites

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    Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS) facility with locker shell removed for clarity. Image courtesy of NASA.

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    ABRS facility with locker shell and front hatch removed for clarity. Image courtesy of NASA.

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    ABRS Environmental Research Chamber (ERC). Image courtesy of NASA.

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    image The Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS) unit in an Expedite the Processing of Experiments to the Space Station (EXPRESS) at Kennedy Space Center. Image courtesy of the Bionetics Corporation.
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    image The Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS) unit in an Expedite the Processing of Experiments to the Space Station (EXPRESS) at Kennedy Space Center. Image courtesy of the Bionetics Corporation.
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    image NASA Image: ISS022E006919 - Expedition 22 Commander worked on the Transgenic Arabidopsis Gene Expression System (TAGES), performing Harvesting Part 1 A prime, then swapping the full TAGES memory cards for two new ones and initiating grow-out for Harvest 1B. The TAGES investigation uses the Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS) facility. Photo was taken at Expedite the Processing of Experiments to the Space Station (EXPRESS) Rack 2 in the U.S. Laboratory during Expedition 22.
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    ISS022-E-011304 (15 Dec. 2009) - NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams, Expedition 22 commander, conducts a daily status check of the Advanced Plant Experiments on Orbit (APEX) experiment in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station. During each check, Williams looks for health and color of the plants, since the Cambium plants are removed from the Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS). When completed, the APEX-Cambium payload in conjunction with the NASA-sponsored Transgenic Arabidopsis Gene Expression System (TAGES) will determine the role of gravity in Cambium wood cell development and demonstrate non-destructive reporter gene technology and investigate spaceflight plant stress. APEX-Cambium provides NASA and the ISS community a permanent controlled environment capability to support growth of various organisms (i.e. whole plants).

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